I can't believe it's been 16 years since my father died. So much has changed since he's been gone. My nephew, Jaime, was 6 months old when Dad passed away. They were both born on October 21st. They shared a birthdate, but never a birthday. Now Jaime is 16 and driving his own car. He has no memories of "Papa Lew", besides the old photos that he sees every once in a while.
When my father died in 1990, I was 23 years old. I had spent the last couple of years as his caretaker. I lived in the apartment above his home and I was on-call 24 x 7. The last year or so was hard. I had a full time job, I was in school, I lived with my partner at the time, ran my father's business and took care of him through his many illnesses, and later throughout his coma. We'd visit him every day for months, but he was never awake. He probably didn't even know that we were there. The night before he died, my brother Joel and I went by the hospital. I don't know why- we were probably checking to see if any flowers or cards had come. That was about the only reason to visit in those days. Normally we would sit in the room and watch TV, while Dad layed in bed on a breathing machine and unconscience. But this night was different. When we walked in the room, Dad's eyes were open. He was awake and out of the coma. He couldn't talk because of the breathing machine, but he could write. He wrote us notes and told us that he loved us. He also wrote down hymns that he wanted to be played at his funeral, and some info about his finances that would come in handy later. It was an amazing night and we went home with such a positive feeling that things would be better. The next morning, I got the phone call that things had taken a turn for the worse. The doctors were asking if we'd like to increase the morphine to an extreem degree, "to help ease the pain". I was young, but I wasn't stupid. I knew what they were saying. They were asking if I wanted to euthanize my father. I couldn't make a decision without talking to my brothers first. We met at the hospital and agreed that it was the right thing to do. They allowed the family to come into the room while Dad passed to the other side. My mother was holding his hand and whispering into his ear as the bleeps on the heart monitor got few and far between: "You are a good man-- I loved you so... so much", she sobbed. My grandparents held his other hand, but couldn't say a word. The rest of us held on to any body part that we could reach, and we were all touching him when the monitor made it's final beep. What a way to go- surrounded by all of your loved ones-- a circle of love around a dying man in a hospital bed. Being held by your wife, your parents, your sister, your sons, and the tiny hand of a baby that shared your birthdate. Four generations of Burnetts in one room, with one common goal-- to comfort a man as he slipped away from us and into another world.
Believe it or not, life moved on after that. It's been 16 years and we've all grown up, and things have changed since that cold Spring morning. I've somehow forged out a life, and I like to think that my Dad would be very proud of me if he could see the man that I grew up to be.
I miss you, Daddy.